Tips For Applying Optional Practical Training
Here are top 10 tips for applying Optional Practical Training (OPT):
OPT should be applied early since you do not need to have a job in order to apply. This will save the time and resource during rush hours. You should also choose your start date wisely since you are not allowed to work earlier than the stated start date. Many students graduate during the spring period. If you select your starting date in June, there will be a lot of competition for jobs and OPT options. If you are wise, you should take summer classes thus, you can graduate 4 months earlier. USCIS officials are not so much loaded with work during winter hence you can stand a better chance of your OPT being processed quite early. You must have your dates since I-20 form that is needed to apply for an EAD cannot be generated without start and end dates. Changing the requested date after USCIS has received your form can be quite difficult and it is unacceptable to start working before you receive your EAD.
Double check your documents
Before submitting your documents to the USCIS, ensure you have the necessary document needed for the process. You should also make sure you have filled in all the details requested for. If you are too busy to confirm you can consult a friend or colleague to do it for you. If you have difficulty in filling the forms, you may consult international students’ office in your University for help.
Send your docs via express mail
It is recommendable to send your documents via certified mail and request for a receipt. Express mail, though it can be a little more expensive is the best option when used to send your documents. One advantage of sending documents via this means is that USCIS will get it fast.
Find the right insurance plan
Students applying for OPT may no longer be authorized for the school insurance plans and the employer may also not insure the student. Therefore you should research on the right student insurance plan to ensure you are covered.
Do not pass application deadline
You should submit your documents to the USCIS 90 days before your program end date and not later than 60 days after your program. If you send your documents later than the indicated dates then you will be automatically disqualified.
Indicate the correct address for EAD
The indicated address should be the one that can receive mails up to 4 months from the time application was mailed. You should also ensure that the address you indicate is correct to successfully receive your EAD card.
Apply for jobs
You do need to have your EAD card for you to start applying for jobs. Start looking for work as soon as possible. Visit all the job sites be it Craigslist, Indeed or CareerBuilder. Confirm all the job requirements and start applications. Update your cover letter and resume. Make sure you are well prepared in case of an interview.
As a focused student, you should start building connections with potential employees. Try to look for internships, offer to volunteer with a company and attend career fares organized by the companies. The chances of getting a job will increase this way, since they will be familiar with you and the kind of work you can deliver.
Pass all your classes
It is a recommended that you should have attained an above average mark in your studies for you to be issued with an EAD card. If you want to be authorized for OPT, score well in your courses.
Before traveling out of the U.S you should have the following document
- Form I-20, the form should be signed by the DSO within 6 months
- Evidence of employment (Proved by an employment letter)
- Valid EAD card
- Valid passport
- An unexpired F-1 visa
What happens when I lose my card?
If your card gets lost, you are required to apply and pay for replacement. you should keep your card safely since applying for a replacement can take a lot of time. You should have to fill form I-765 and resubmit it to USCIS along with other relevant supporting documents and the application fees.
There is a misconception among students that employers prefer to employ US citizens only to minimize cost related to employment since in OPT a student will only be in the country for a year (3 years in STEM). Employers would not want to train an employee who will not be there permanently. This is not true for all companies, so our suggestion is to follow the above tips while applying for OPT and keep a positive attitude. Good Luck!